As a six year-old Ian would perform for the family as they sat outside in the warm Alice Springs evenings. He would announce the title of the song, sing it and take a bow. At about nine years of age he sang "The Battle of New Orleans" at his school.
Ian's older sister was an accomplished pianist and Ian began taking piano lessons from the age of eight. But it was his older brother Peter's guitar which soon took his interest.
At the same time guitarists such as Jimmy Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Ritchie Blackmore and Jeff Beck, all major influences, were emerging on the music scene. At fourteen Ian was asked to join The Scene, a successful local band.
Ian played rhythm guitar, which involved plugging an acoustic guitar into the bass player's amplifier. The Scene played the local youth center and soon started organising their own dances. Ian was soon singing a couple of songs himself and he did purchase an electric guitar to replace his acoustic.
"I was with them for about a year and by that time I was starting to get my own band happening," Ian recalls.
That band was Anger & Tears.
"We debuted at the Alice Springs High School in 1970 with Proud Mary and Who'll Stop The Rain, two Creedence Clearwater songs. I think they went down well." Ian also recalls a Battle of the Bands competition where they played Black Sabbath's Paranoid, Chain's Work All Day and Race with the Devil by a group called The Gunn.
The band played at a school assembly. Ian's mother was so concerned about the length of her son's hair that she insisted he get it cut before playing at the school. When he returned from the barber it had been cut extremely short. Realising how much Ian disliked it, his mother never again asked him to cut his hair. Anger & Tears were then invited to play the school dance but arrived late and had their payment docked. As they only had four or five songs in their repertoire, they continually repeated these to fill the time required.
In 1972, at the age of seventeen, Ian left Alice Springs and moved to Adelaide (Ian's Older sister was already there, studying at teacher's college) to attend Marion High School.
Later Ian would reflect on those days in Alice Springs: "When I was growing up there, there was about 5,000 people and lots of dust. It was very isolated, of course, but it was good in a way that it created unity amongst a community. I remember with fondness that you felt totally safe in your environment and with the people. You could go anywhere. The thought of being attacked or anything negative just never occurred to you. It's only in the past 20 years that the good old city evils have caught up with the Australian outback."
Soon after Ian met Don Walker at a jam session and after running into him a few times around town, again at Les Kasczmareks house. Les had been advertising for musicians to form a new band. That band later became Cold Chisel and the rest, as they say, is history.
When Cold Chisel played their final shows in December 1983, Ian found himself with a lot of free time, for the first time in 10 years. He was 27 years old and had been in Cold Chisel since he was 17.
In 1986 Ian started working on a batch of songs and I saw a show at a country gig in December 1986. The show, at Geelong's Eureka Hotel, followed a number of shows in country New South Wales. All part of a tour designed to try out new songs and a band for a future solo release (Ian had not released a record at that stage).
T he band consisted of Andrew Cowan on keyboards (ex-Kevin Borich Express, Renee Geyer, Madder Lake & Ayers Rock), John Imbroll on bass (ex Goanna) and John Watson on drums (ex Renee Geyer, Kevin Borich & Australian Crawl).
The band played the Chisel songs Ian had written, Never Before, No Good For You, and Bow River, as well as Georgia. Five new Don Walker songs were also performed, When you Dance, Telephone Booth, Tangle Town, Pretty Face and I Remember You, which was the hot tip for first single at the time.
Bow River was given a key change and I asked Ian if this had been done to take the strain off his voice (which now had to work all night) or to allow him to sing the Barnes parts. With a slightly embarrassed smile he answered "A bit of both really. I'm not trying to copy 'that other band' I used to be in What was it called? But yes, the voice does have to work a lot harder. Jimmy did sing very high too."
During the 75 minute set there were many calls for old Cold Chisel favorites. As we stood talking after the show a couple of girls accused him of promising to play My Baby and When The War Is Over in the set when he appeared on television the previous Saturday morning. Ian replied that he had only promised to play the Cold chisel songs he had written. When the girls asked why he didn't play the other songs, Ian replied, "You've just got to move on."
Ian later told me that he had expected a demand for the older songs when he came back, adding, "The other band is very much alive"
It was to be in the following year before Ian in fact started recording material for his first solo album. A single, Tuckers Daughter was the first release.
Tucker's Daughter came from an intro melody and phrase ("Hey you, motherfucker") Ian had. Not really suitable lyrics for a possible single! Ian: "We had this bloody deadline to meet and I'd decided , 'Yes I definitely want Don Walker to write the lyrics'. But he was on the other side of the world and it was just ridiculous trying to get the demo tape to him. We were racing to the airport, getting midnight expresses and spending hundreds of bucks trying to get the song to Sydney. It got there eventually, but then it was held up because there was a customs strike. So then we tried to find someone, a passenger who'd volunteer to deliver the tape in person. That didn't work out so I'd be playing the song down the phone into an answering machine. Finally we got the song to Don and after numerous thousands of dollars being spent on the phone, he delivered a wonderful set of lyrics over the telephone."
The single is worth chasing for the instrumental non-album B-side, Islands, which sees Ian playing some tasty, Jeff Beck style jazz/rock licks. Interestingly, a re-recorded version of the same song appeared as the B-side of a later Moss single, Slip Away.
As anyone who was in Australia at the time would know, Tucker's Daughter was a No. 1 hit and immediately put pressure on Ian to deliver a follow-up single and album.
The second single was Telephone Booth. "This one was written totally by Don and it came to him as he traveled around Australia. Literally, he drove right around the coast of Australia and Telephone Booth was written in a moment of total freedom and openness."
Telephone Booth also has an instrumental non-album track for a B -side, Answer Machine Blues.
The album was now well on the way. Recorded over a two year period at Ocean way Studios in Los Angeles, and primarily at Rhinosaurus in Sydney, nine of the songs were written or co-written with Don Walker. Matchbook, the title given to the album, also contained the closest thing to Cold Chisel since the band split in the Prestwich/Moss/Walker composition, I've Got You.
Matchbook is an excellent album with songs such as the title track and Such A Beautiful Thing displaying some of Don Walker's finest writing. Of the latter Ian commented: "Such a Beautiful Thing was recorded late in the piece, the last week in fact. It's a good set of lyrics about some negative and slightly ugly observations which are very realistic. It has a positive message of 'that's O.K., she'll be okay in the end'. It does mention some upsetting sights but it has a positive outlook overall."
Of the title track: "Matchbook is one of my favorites on the album. It's got a strong blues element, feel and tone, which I love, and it gave me an excuse to really lash out with some blues guitar."
Critics gave the album a universal thumbs up with comments like this from X-Press.
"I doubt there will be better Australian albums this year." 3/8/89 The other singles from the album are very collectable due to the rare B-sides. Mr Rain features The Dummy on the B-side, a song with Cold Chisel playing on it (Jimmy is not heard) from 1979. This track was previously only available on the rare Australian Guitar Album. I have spoken with Ian about this song and he is enthusiastic about it. Cold Chisel did perform it in five shows around Christmas 1979. One of the rarest Cold chisel track actually released.
The Out Of the Fire single features Angel Eyes on the B-side. Fans of songs like The Party's Over and Georgia, will love this song once performed by Frank Sinatra. I'm quite certain Ian performed this one in the pre-Matchbook show I saw in Geelong in 1986.
Ian's view on this period in his career? I'm very happy with the album, for different reasons. Some things turn out as you expected and others not as you expected. overall I think it's the most complete work I've ever done."
Another significant document of this period is the video, Live At The Hordern. It is essentially a live show (9 songs) taken from the Hordern Pavilion in 1989. Apart from 6 tracks from Matchbook (Tangletown, Pretty Face, Mr Rain. Tuckers Daughter Beautiful Thing and Telephone Booth), it also includes the live regular, As You Dance, (not released by Ian but included on Don Walker's Unlimited Address album) and the Cold Chisel songs Never Before and Bow River.
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